From U23 athlete to mature medallist
|French pole vault star Renaud Lavillenie.
Not only would it give them an extra opportunity to win medals, but help them through that difficult transition from developing talent to full-grown medallist.
Equally importantly, it took them through the machinery of a championships, from call-room to heats and finals, giving them invaluable experience of how to handle themselves through the mechanics of competition.
One of the most significant examples of this is Renaud Lavillenie. His tentative entrance onto the international stage came in Debrecen 2007 where he finished an anonymous tenth with a height of 5.30.
No one needs reminding of just how much the 25-year-old Frenchman has developed since: European champion, indoors and out, world indoor champion and world outdoor bronze.
And now champion again at the Helsinki 2012 European Athletics Championships after his epic battle with Germany's Björn Otto produced one of the highlights of the championships before an enthralled crowd.
The next step is the Olympics where the Frenchman will be firm favourite after setting a world lead to win when under pressure.
A more recent successful product of the U23s is the German shot putter, David Storl of Germany, who obviously learnt a great deal from his cliff-hanger in Ostrava last year.
In the final he went to the edge of the abyss, starting off with two no-throws. Staring elimination in the face, he pulled himself together, qualified for the final three throws and won it with a thumping championship record of 20.45.
Not one to hang around, Storl then became two months later the youngest shot putter in the history of the sport to lift world championship gold.
Another destined for greater things who won his spurs in Ostrava was the talented Russian high hurdler, Sergey Shubenkov.
He finished last season with a personal best 13.46, hacked 0.28 off that at the end of May for a Russian record and then sliced off a further 0.09 in the semis in Helsinki for his second national record of the season.
|David Storl of Germany.
Shubenkov may not yet be on the same level as Xiang Liu, Dayron Robles or Jason Richarson, but they will certainly know he has been to the Olympics.
A one-lap hurdler who did not figure in Kaunas 2009 –she finished fifth – but made a big impact here in Helsinki, is Russia's Irina Davydova.
In three years the 24-year-old has travelled from obscurity to the top of the world.
Davydova came to Helsinki brandishing the world's fastest time of 53.87 and left the Finnish capital with that time and reputation enhanced as she reduced by a further tenth of a second.
Currently, the only athlete close to Davydova is the USA's Lashinda Demus who won her country's trials with 53.98.
Going into the Olympics, it very much looks like the Russian is the woman to beat.
Nor should anyone discount Vira Rebryk in the Javelin when the race for Olympic gold starts.
The Ukrainian has been forged in U23 competition and after winning in Helsinki, defeating the world's number three, Christina Obergföll, she must be in the reckoning for gold.
Rebryk is an old hand at the U23s – she has competed in the last three - starting in Debrecen 2007, which she won. In Kaunas she was second, a position she repeated in Ostrava.
And now she is European champion with a national record 66.86, making her the fifth longest thrower in the world this season.
An in-form high jumper who is in line for gold in London is Robbie Grabarz.
Sharing the second highest jump in the world this of 2.36, the Briton is only one centimetre below Russia's Ivan Ukhov.
On the high jump fan in Helsinki, the 24-year-old Bedford athlete competed with élan to take European gold.
|Irina Davydova of Russia.|
Five years ago in Debrecen, Nadine Müller was a distant ninth in the discus. Now no one could have failed to notice the distinctive German who took silver in Helsinki to add to her silver at the Daegu world championships.
Any budding champion should take heart at the lowly beginnings of these athletes. Persistence brings rewards and the invaluable experience gained in competitions like the U23 championships, designed in part to forge champions of the future.
Possibly the most extreme example came in the men's 1500m when the unheralded Henrik Ingebrigtsen came through late to snatch gold for Norway.
In Ostrava last year, he went out in the heats, finishing no higher than 13th. He did not even make the final.
Now he is a European champion!